In Pope Francis’ recent attempts to justify the “legitimate redistribution of economic benefits” he uses a somewhat bizarre example from the New Testament teachings of Christ: the story of Zaccheus (Luke 19:1-10). The reason I call it bizarre is because, as those who know the New Testament will remember, Zaccheus was portrayed as a wicked tax collector. A corrupt man of Jewish decent who seized the finances of the common people, with the full authority of the Roman government. In other words, Zaccheus believed in the “redistribution of economic benefits” from those who earned them to those who didn’t. In his case redistributing it to his own pocket.
The point of the Biblical account was that Jesus changed Zaccheus’ heart, resulting in him giving back four-fold to all those he stole from and vowing to give half of all he had to the poor. And here’s the kicker, Zaccheus vowed to do this FREELY, which is to say, apart from government coercion. This really is, after all, the heart of true charity. A person gives. As opposed to thievery, where someone else takes.
In an ironic twist, the Pope couldn’t have used a worse example to try and justify his socialistic views. In addressing the United Nations, and calling on governments to “redistribute” wealth he was making a call for the OLD Zaccheus to be unleashed on the world with his wicked notion of asset seizure. Rather than the NEW Zaccheus who gave willingly of his own accord. What the Pope should be doing is encouraging the people to help the poor with their physical and financial resources, rather than calling on governments to extract “help” from the people, by force. Which leads to another flaw in the Pope’s Biblical interpretation.
Speaking of the new found spirit Zaccheus had after meeting Jesus, the Pope said, “This same spirit should be at the beginning and end of all political and economic activity……This ought to awaken the conscience of political and economic agents and lead them to generous and courageous decisions with immediate results, like the decision of Zaccheus.” The Pope is not only wrong, he is comparing apples to oranges. The “freewill” individual giving of Zaccheus should NOT be the beginning of all political and economic activity because political powers are operating with other people’s money. It’s easy to give something that’s not yours in the first place. Giving of your own resources is a different matter altogether. And that’s what Zaccheus did. And that’s what the Bible commends him for. In truth, Zaccheus is the worst possible example the Pope could use to justify “redistribution.”
In conclusion, I would simply state as I have before that the Pope is entitled to believe and espouse whatever he wishes. But a butchery of the Biblical text in order to justify his views needs to be called out for what it is. For all of his so-called “papal infallibility” on doctrinal issues, the Pope comes down opposite of Jesus and the Bible on the topic of helping the poor. Zaccheus is commended for giving of his own accord. The Pope advocates taking by force and redistributing. In the end we see Zaccheus displaying genuine charity and the Pope displaying a faux charity that is tantamount to legalized theft. Ironically the Pope commends the OLD Zaccheus who Jesus condemned. And ignores the NEW Zaccheus who Jesus commended.